Infection of the middle or inner ear is commonly caused by bacteria and can leave your dog experiencing severe discomfort and pain. Dogs with hair growth in their ear canals or long floppy ears are more susceptible to developing ear infections as air can't circulate easily and their ears don't dry as quickly as short-eared breeds, which creates a hospitable environment for bacteria. Here's an overview of the symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of ear infections in dogs:
Symptoms of a middle or inner ear infection include:
- Scratching or rubbing their ears against the floor or furniture
- A foul-smelling discharge, which may be yellow or brown
- Redness and inflammation around the ear flaps
- Pain, which may manifest as irritability or loss of interest in food and play
- Unresponsive to your voice at times due to partial hearing loss
- Frequent head shaking and poor coordination
Your vet will examine your dog's ears with an otoscope, which allows them to see deep into your dog's ear canals and establish the degree of inflammation and general condition of the ears. As there are several types of bacteria that can cause an ear infection, the vet will take a sample of the discharge in your dog's ears and have it analysed to determine the specific bacteria present.
Your vet may also take samples of your dog's blood to establish if there's an underlying illness that could be causing general inflammation or compromising their immune system, both of which could make your dog more susceptible to ear infections.
Once the type of bacteria responsible for your dog's ear infection has been established, your vet will clean your dog's ears and prescribe antibiotics. They will assess your ears after the course of antibiotics is complete to ensure the infection has resolved. In cases of persistent ear infections, the vet will drain the fluid from your dog's middle ear and prescribe a longer course of antibiotics. They may also prescribe an anti-inflammatory to help increase blood flow to the ears and promote healing.
To minimise the risk of recurrent ear infections, your vet can show you how to clean your dog's ears and recommend products to help dry your dog's ear canals after they've been swimming. You can use a damp cotton ball to clean the outside of your dog's ears, but it's best to use drops to clean the inner ears as you risk injuring your dog if you stick anything into their delicate ear canals.
If you're concerned your dog may have an ear infection, schedule an appointment with a clinic like Ivanhoe Veterinary Clinic as soon as possible.